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Why Does Insulation Matter?

January 25, 2016

Insulation does more than slow heat flow: it sells houses, future proofs, makes floor plans bigger, and sends your kids to college. Really.

1. Comfort

Heating systems are designed to bring the temperature of the building to the set point on a thermostat. Heat loss can happen all over a building, so some parts (corners, behind furniture, etc.) are considerably cooler than where the thermostat is located.

Temperature variations like this are uncomfortable because they cause slight convection currents in a room, making it feel drafty. Cold spots also can lead to condensation, which leads to mold and mildew.

We have said it before and we will say it again: cold spots = mold spots.

2. Great investment

It is not uncommon, according to Steve, for a poorly insulated house to use $2,000 less of energy per year after being insulated properly.

Steve equates this $2,000/year to:

  • A $100,000 Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)
  • A Two-week vacation to some place warm
  • College education for your kids ($36k + interest after 18 years of saving)

All good things.

3. Makes the home more livable

Insulation inside interior walls can greatly reduce sound transmission between rooms. This means you do not have to hide as far away in the house from the kids' music or to mask the sound of your 'Game of Thrones' binge-watching sessions.

4. Rising standards and expectations

Today's homes use less energy than homes just five years old. Leading edge homes being built today are net zero homes.

No, you will not be required to improve the performance of an existing house every time the energy code increases (every three years, by the way), but it means that yesterday's houses are lower quality that today's, unless you build with tomorrow in mind.

The point: Do not scrape the bottom of the code barrel — beat the codes, don't just meet them.

Canada uses the EnerGuide Rating to compare homes to typical homes in the area. One province requires EnerGuide Reports, which are detailed analysis of the specific house, its' energy use, and production (solar, wind, etc.).

Now that infrared cameras are available for smartphones, there is no way to hide from heat loss in the houses you build. Your customers do not even have to get out of their car to see it.

"The whole energy transparency issue is about to take a big leap forward, too, which is another reason to think differently about insulation."
—Steve Maxwell

Quality of insulation products and quality of the installation matter more and more.

5. Insulation matters more than the heat source

Moving from electric resistance baseboard heat to natural gas hydronic baseboard heat will save money in energy costs, but insulating the house is more effective. The reverse is also true, a poorly insulated house with natural gas boiler will be expensive to heat even though natural gas is (relatively) cheap.

And insulation cuts carbon emissions.

Steve Maxwell is a home improvement contractor in Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. His website and YouTube page offer many informative videos, articles, and photos.

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